Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cycling Article

Last night I finished writing a small article for a workplace 'newspaper'. It's kind of like a small recap on all the fantastic people we met during our ride from San Francisco to Vancouver in the fall of 2007. Enjoy. * * * * *

My husband, Brian, and I like to think of ourselves simply as “those two people on bikes.” When we tell people that we rode 3500 kilometres in New Zealand followed immediately by a 2500-kilometre ride from San Francisco to Vancouver, BC as a reintroduction to North America, people usually say, “What? With all your stuff?... Why?” Good question.

Of all the memories from these trips by bike, the main themes seem to be these: amazing scenery, amazing food, and amazing people. And sometimes, all three together.

I have a wonderful example of this triad of perfection: Imagine the little, cute town of Mendocino, California. It’s a hot, sunny afternoon in early September. I’m perched next to the only grocery store in town. As I sit, patiently sipping on water, I see this small, older woman take a peek at me and the bikes before heading into the store. Five minutes later, she reappears, stops right beside me and says, “Do you have somewhere to stay tonight?” My mind quickly assesses the situation: she looks harmless, but she appears like she could own ten cats and live in a small, very dusty trailer. “Nope,” I respond. Within minutes, we had directions to her house a few kilometers outside of town.

Upon arriving at her homestead, my mind rekindled an old adage, “Never make assumptions, Dee.” As it turns out, this friendly eighty-year-old woman, Norma, lived in the not so small, or dusty, cottage she designed and built back in the sixties, which happened to be located on a set of high cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We parked the bikes, knocked on the door and were immediately invited to sit in the Adirondack chairs on the back deck, snack on corn chips, sip on a couple of ice-cold Coronas and watch the sun set over the ocean. Um.... yeah. Amazing food, amazing scenery, and, if you haven’t guessed already, Norma was an amazing woman.

Our time with Norma was extended to nearly three days of eating homemade apple pie (150% better than raw garlic and curdled milk), getting beaten badly at Boggle (she’s a pro and took no prisoners), making meals together, sipping local wine, and sharing stories about the most excellent strangers we had all been lucky to meet (she had some doozies).

Not all interactions on our journeys were quite so dream-like, but each one certainly added a tale to the spicy mixture of our trip. There was the tired, dirty, young fellow walking - yes, walking - from southern California north to Seattle along the coastal highway with which we shared some food and listened to his numerous stories of running out of water. There were Ed and Bobbie, who had a map on their kitchen wall highlighted with all their cycling trips over the past 40 years.

There was the couple on the Oregon coast that met us in a parking lot after their successful mushroom hunt. They gave us a bag full of chanterelle mushrooms to benefit our dinner that night. Mmm... There was the woman with the gnome garden in her front yard and a set of really cheap cabins for rent on the waterfront. Yikes.

There was Jason, the GIS student who plans to help us start up a bike shop/coffee shop/gallery/yoga studio someday. There were Alan and Donna, who pretty much forced us, and everyone who stays with them, to try on their Halloween costumes and photo-document the occasion.

And who could forget Max, whom we met in a state park campsite. Max and his cohort of hung over, hungry, exhausted, university-aged dudes were cycle touring the coast in the opposite direction we were in an attempt to delay re-entry into formalized education. The chances of meeting Max at this one particular place on the west coast of the States was rare, but the fact that we met Max that night and shared not only our dinner but also our plans for the rest of the year meant that he passed us his aunt and uncle’s phone number in Nelson, BC and said, “Call them when you get there. Tell them I sent you. They will invite you over for dinner.” A few months later, that they did. And, they ended up coming to our wedding the following summer.

Even when we aren’t cycle touring ourselves, we maintain the connection to this lifestyle and continue to build our ever-expanding community of lovely and inspiring strangers by hosting other cyclists when they pass through our area (we use www.warmshowers.org to let cyclists know where we are and how to get in touch with us – anyone can be a host).

Perhaps these stories may inspire you to hop on a bike just so you can meet people who invite you in for fresh, homemade pies, or in my husband’s case, a private plane flight across the prairies! One thing is for certain: no matter where we go or how long it takes us to get there, our love affair with cycle touring is centered around seeing beautiful places, eating delicious meals, and discovering new friends.

That’s why we ride.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I succumbed to "25 Things About Dee"

Sometimes on email, or recently on Facebook, lists get sent around concerning things you might not know about the person who sent you the message. I kind of detest these things because usually they have stupid questions like, "What's your favourite colour?" or "Who do you think is most likely to respond back to you?" That's pathetic; however, I like it when the questions are inventive, or like in the most recent backlash of lists is Facebook's rampant "25 Things About Me" list, where you can make up your own list. Being a bit more of an outsideofthebox kind of gal, I got inspired by some other friends of mine who filled their list out with really interesting things about them, and so decided to write my own list of 25 Things About Dee: 1. I'd rather be naked than wear super-tight jeans. 2. I think I just got certified as a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy Practitioner. 3. My logical mind comes from a strong line of mechanical Monties. 4. If I don't get outside at least once a day, I feel like I die just a little bit. 5. I frequent Steve-o-Reno's for a decaf coffee and a brownie more than I'd like to admit (but at least I bring my own stainless steel mug). 6. I've married a man who looks like my twin but with less hair. 7. I buy my husband children's books for presents so that we have a kick-ass library of fun kids books when we actually do pop out a little wee-kid one day. 8. Brian and I read these kids books together in bed before falling asleep. 9. I need twenty minutes of lounging in bed under the warm covers before I can even think about getting up. 10. My best friend, Sarah, has had that title since 1992. 11. I write Haiku's about bacon, and as birthday wishes for friends when I remember to. 12. I love the Halifax market on Saturday mornings between 8:00 and 9:00 AM, but if I get there later than that I definitely get 'market rage'. 13. I haven't owned a television in ten years. 14. If a television is on in a room, I cannot divert my eyes no matter how hard I try. 15. I am a photographer of nature, of small things, of people, and I used to sell my photos as greeting cards at the Halifax market back in 2004. 16. I love, LOVE movies. Good movies. 17. I got married in a park, with a keg of beer, a canoe, and 75 of our closest friends and family. 18. I secretly wish I could sing like Jen Grant. 19. Sometimes when I take other people's yoga classes, I get really resistant to their control over what I'm doing, so I do other things just to be doing something different. 20. I write about shit like #19 in my journal to try to understand the inner workings of Dee and how to grow into who I really am. 21. I say I hate lists like this, but I really like reading other people's answers. 22. My spare time is sucked up by jobs right now, and I can't wait to have more space to play, to paint, to run around, and do anything I desire. 23. I'm considering cropping my hair super short again because longer hair is too hard to manage, and I haven't used a hair dryer in three years, so I need my 'style' to be easy. 24. The food I buy and prepare now is completely different from what I ate ten years ago - I care about buying local, eating fresh food, and dropping the amount of flour and sugar and milk I ingest. I cook differently too, which is nice. 25. Sometimes I see myself in a window reflection and think, "Holy shit, I look really pretty today! Right on!"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dee's Update to her Phoenix Rising Pals

It's near the completion date for the 8-month yoga therapy course I've been working on through Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. The group of us (approximately 30) about to finish have been sharing stories lately on email about how we're doing and what's been happening in our lives, in our practice. I thought I'd extend the sharing aspect of my email update here on my blog: My story, or update, appears to revolve around a little intention I wished for that seems to have come to fruition a little too strongly. Perhaps I don't need to ask for my wishes with the phrase "Pretty please with ice cream on top" added to the end (note to self). What did I ask for? Money. Er, well, more specifically, a job. A job that was more than a few hours a week so Brian and I could pay our mortgage and afford to eat sushi in a restaurant every once in a while. What did I get? Four jobs. Sheesh! Okay, now the next question is probably, "Why did you take all these jobs, Dee?" I ask myself that question a lot, and my answer comes from the fact that I was offered each job sequentially and these part-time jobs started to add up real nice resembling something like partitioned full-time work, and then in the end, after I had accepted these jobs, I got offered one more: a full-time job with Health Canada (a federal job with benefits that amount to more than just being able to eat sushi in a restaurant once in a while)... So, when you have four jobs, one of which is already a full-time job, and then you add Packet 4 to the mix, you get Productive Dee. I should actually rephrase that to, "PRODUCTIVE Dee." I told Karen that I have a new understanding of the phrase, "If you need something done, give it to a busy person." Now for a drum roll..... where's the drum roll? - oh yeah, this is email. [Insert drum roll here]: I'm almost done Packet 4. Yes, it's incredible, I know, but PRODUCTIVE Dee was pre-planning and basically gave'er (Canadian term for 'hauled ass', or 'worked really hard') in the two weeks prior to starting the fourth and full-time employment opportunity. It's surprising how many sessions I could squeeze into two weeks, and how many reports I could pump out. That makes the process sound rushed and potentially weak, but really, it was a great way to go very deeply and intensely into the process and I came out with some new awarenesses that I probably wouldn't have noticed if I had done these things in the slow, relaxed pace that I've been used to with my semi-retired style of living these past four years. The last question might be, "How long are you going to stretch yourself over these four jobs, Dee?" Not for long, that's for sure. I'm fully aware of the another well-known phrase, "Don't burn the candle at both ends." Each one of the part-time gigs drops off sometime within the next month or two, except teaching yoga and the full-time federal job. So, come April, I think I'll be in the position to offer some yoga therapy, take some time to enjoy my employment benefits, and go out for sushi lots. In the mean time, I find myself gliding along somewhat smoothly on my short-term heightened immune system - thanks equally to the stress of my situation and my yoga practice: paradoxical, and awesome. With love and warmth, Dee

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's just a parking spot, ladies. Sheesh!

I have to go to bed. My eyes are killing me, and my belly is still trying to recover from the stress associated with witnessing two ladies fight over my parking spot at the grocery store today as I was trying to back out. It was nasty. Two ladies, two cars, pointed directly at each other, both waiting for the moment to pounce. I just wanted to get the hell out of there, but neither one of them would budge enough to let me out for fear of the other screeching in and stealing the golden spot. Aren't there other spots in the lot? Geeze. One actually got out of her car and came over to me yelling at me that the other lady had to move. I said, with a "Do-I-give-a-shit" look on my face, "Look lady, it isn't my problem. I just need you to move your car three feet back so I can get out." What a load of cah-phooie: sitting there waiting for what felt like a long time for one of these two ladies to release their grip and let me get out of the parking spot. The worst part about it was that the lady who came to my car window, who arrived 'in line' second, ended up getting the spot. Fairness would have let the other lady park her car there, but the freak with green eyeshadow, over-dyed hair, bad teeth and obnoxious anger busted in first. I should have driven my rusty old car right into her new Pontiac. Wouldn't have mattered to me... That would have made me laugh. I can see it now.... kind of like a "Fried Green Tomatoes" scenario.